What do Mining Engineers do?
As you will see, there are almost too many things that Mining Engineers do: most of them are given below
The work done by mining engineers has changed significantly over the last decade due to factors such as computing technology, globalization, economic reforms, information technologies and environmental considerations.
The different work that can be done can be broadly classified into several areas. In general, these track the development of a mine from discovery of a mineral resource through to design, commissioning operations and beyond.
• Resources and Mineable Reserve Calculations
• Mine Planning and Design
• Financial Analyst
• Raising Capital
• Project Management
• Mining Operations and Management
• Government Regulators
• Consulting, research, further study
• Private and Public Companies
Resource and Mineable Reserve Calculations
The exploration geologist finds a mineral deposit. The mining engineer must frequently discuss with the geologist to define the shape, size and composition of the deposit. Thereafter, the mining engineer has to determine the grade (quality) and distribution of the minerals in the deposit. The size of the resource and how much of it can be economically mined then needs to be determined. In order to do this, the mining engineer must apply their knowledge of mining methods and mineral economics.
There is likely to be a number of options as to how to best extract the minerals. The most favourable technical option may not yield the best economic return and hence the engineer has to devise an optimum technical solution that will maximise the potential economic value from extracting and marketing the minerals.
Quite often as part of the design process, the deposit has to be visualised in three dimensions and broken up into a series of blocks with similar properties. Till last decade, physical models were quite often built to help in understanding the nature of the deposit and the changes in its shape as more information was gained from subsequent drilling.
Today, this done by computer simulation and computer software. Mining engineers are often involved in the development and use of these software packages The software is not only used by mining engineers at mine sites but also by mining engineers working in consulting, banking and finance and government. In India, there is a lot of potential for this work..
It is important when making investment decisions that resource and reserve calculations are accurate. Some mining engineers specialise in auditing these calculations on behalf of merchant banks and shareholders.
Mine Planning and Design
The mine plan used to calculate resources and mineable reserves when first evaluating a new mineral deposit is largely conceptual. If it yields an outcome that appears to have economic potential, then a much more detailed technical study will need to be undertaken by mining engineers to confirm the viability of the project. Some of these mining engineers will need to have specialist knowledge. For example, a geotechnical specialist will be required to determine the properties of the rockmass and to predict how it will respond to the various mining options. The specialist may recommend which mining option is best, what angle to make the sides of an open cut mine, how wide to make the tunnels, how to support the excavations and what type of equipment is best suited to cutting or drilling the rockmass. Presently many mining companies are using mine planning software like Surpac, Datamine, Galana etc and mining engineers who are trained on these software are appointed for planning.
Other mining engineers could be required with specialist knowledge in areas such as native environment, blasting and ground vibration, machinery design, training and marketing. Once the mining method is chosen, it is necessary to construct a ‘life of mine’ plan. This is used to determine things such as the size and number of items of equipment. The mining engineer must ensure that the equipment is matched to the size and shape of the mineral deposit and that it will pay for itself well before all the deposit is extracted. Within a few years of graduation, mining engineers can find themselves being involved in making decisions to purchase individual items of mining equipment and fleets of equipment . Thereafter, schedules have to be developed for things such as procuring the mining equipment, recruitment of labour, overburden removal, capital expenditure, production ramp up and marketing.
Today, safety and environment are of the highest priority in the mining industry. Performance is judged on the ‘triple bottom line’ – health and safety, environmental protection and profit. Computing technology offers huge benefits in these regards and the mining industry would become one of the largest consumers of computing technology. Many modern new surface and underground mining equipment is remote control. Some is so automated that it does not even require a remote control operator. Computer control systems have also enabled the use of larger and more sophisticated items of equipment, such as dumps trucks. The mechanical and electrical functions of the equipment are continuously monitored so that potential problems can be detected before they cause a breakdown. Prevention of breakdowns becomes very important as larger pieces of equipment replace many small pieces.
Satellites track trucks as they travel around a surface mine. The global positioning systems (GPS) interact with computers on loading equipment and determine which part of the mine trucks should source their next load. Satellites are also used to map the mine and control other equipment such as graders.
Mining engineers play an important role in the development and use of this sort of technology. Some are employed at mine sites in selecting and operating the equipment. Others are employed by equipment manufactures in research and development, design, sales and servicing.
Once the mine layout has been generated, equipment chosen and costed, schedules developed and production and sales rates determined, the mining engineer has to subject the project to a financial analysis to determine its economic viability to an order of accuracy that the project can be presented to the Board of Directors and the bankers. A good knowledge of mining engineering practice is required to ensure that sensible and realistic situations are being evaluated. Some mining engineers specialise in undertaking this type of financial analysis. Others specialise in auditing the outcomes on behalf of organisations such as merchant banks.
Once Board approval has been given for a project to proceed, capital may need to be raised. Mining engineers can be involved in both raising capital on behalf of a mining company and approving capital on behalf of the lender or investor
The construction of a new mine involves managing a large number of manpower, contractors and a large number of parallel tasks. Project management and contract management are critical to keeping the project on time and budget. Both the mine owner and the various contractors may employ mining engineers for these purposes. With the trend towards out-sourcing of mine services, an increasing number of mining engineers would be needed in managing contracting companies at both a site level and a corporate level.
Mine Operations and Management
Having completed construction of the mine, it is the role of the mining engineers to ensure that the right amount of mineral is produced at the right quality and at the right time in a safe and cost effective manner in accordance with mining approval conditions. The public limited company recruit mining engineers as management trainees in the beginning immediately after B.Tech. and later they can work at various managerial cadres like Under Manager, Mining Engineer, Asst. Manager, mine managers. They can go upto the Director of the company. There are numerous roles for mining engineers in these regards. They include:
• Supervising individual mining crews
• Supervising the whole mine on a shift basis.
• Production manager, in charge of production across all shifts.
• Safety officer
• Mine ventilation officer
• Geotechnical engineer
• Drill and blast engineer
• Training officer
• Environmental officer
• Mineral processing
• Mine manager
• General mine manager
Obviously, one cannot just mine wherever they like and how they like. Approval has to be sought from government and a range of approval conditions have to be complied with. Mining engineers work in government to frame the legislation that regulates mining, to implement the legislation and to monitor compliance with it. Environment and health and safety are two areas that are of particular concern. Some mining engineers are engaged primarily in evaluating the environmental impacts of mining as part of issuing a mining approval. Others are employed as inspectors to approve mining systems and to monitor compliance with occupational health and safety legislation. Mining engineers are also involved in the framing of legislation and the issuing of statutory qualifications for persons such as mining foreman and mine managers competency certificates .
It is not feasible for an individual mine or even a very large mining company to employ all the mining engineers that are needed to undertake all the tasks noted in the previous sections. Therefore, they call upon consultants. Consulting is an area that has undergone rapid growth. Consultants enable companies to tap into specialist expertise that has been developed as a result of working on a wider range of projects than exist within one organisation. Consultants tend to be based in a regional or capital city. They can range from being a one person organisation to being a branch of an international consulting company.
Some graduates join a consulting company immediately upon graduation and develop their expertise in-house. Others wait until they have acquired a reasonable amount of practical experience within the industry. The choice is determined to some extent by the area in which the mining engineer wishes to consult. The options available enormous and include
• Geotechnical engineering
• Mine design and planning
• Mine ventilation
• Excavation engineering
• Equipment selection and performance
• Human resource management
• Management process
• Financial analysis
• Environmental assessment EMP, EIA
Mining engineers can go for research in core and supporting mining area for innovating approach in mining, modern mines, for improving efficiency of mining and excavation, for total safety in mines, eco-friendly and sustainable mining technology, mine closures and reclamation etc. Some companies have R&D cell and mining engineers do needed R&D. Some exclusive research organizations are there which recruits mining scientist for research. Some mining engineers having academic interest can join teaching cum research institutes
Mining engineers can go for post graduate studies (M.Tech or MS) in India or abroad after going through the eligibility. The post graduate programmes include M.Tech in Mine Planning, Rock Mechanics, Rock excavation Engg. Mineral Engineering, Environment Engineering, Geomatics, GIS and remote sensing, Industrial Engg, IT in mining, Computer applications in mining, geostatistics etc. They can also go for pursuing Ph.D. in various mining, safety, environment, rock mechanics, computer aided planning and design related topics.
Private and Public Companies
The diverse nature of the mining industry creates numerous opportunities for mining engineers to work in a range of private and public companies. In addition to consulting, the types of activities that these companies are engaged in include:
• Small scale mining
• Excavations and tunneling
• Equipment manufacture, sales and service.
• Computer software development, implementation and training
• Explosives manufacturing
• Technology commercialization
• Contractual and outsourcing services to mining and excavations
- Created: 03 April 2014
- Last Updated: 30 September 2015